Say yes

Miscellaneous thoughts, Motivation, Philosophy

Say yes to that flash of inspiration.

I started this blog in a frenzy, not knowing what it would be.

Say yes to that thing you’re frightened of doing.

I was scared to share it with my friends and family, embarrassed of what people might think.

Say yes to trying out something new.

I didn’t know if I could write. 

Say yes to getting up early to crush that workout.

It never feels easy, but it is always worth it.

Say yes to that opportunity, whatever it is – even (especially) if you don’t know you can do it.

Someone asked if I could do an illustration for the cover of their book after finding me on Instagram. I said yes.

Say yes to the best possible version of you. 

Rocky IV changed my life

Creativity, Fitness, Motivation, productivity

One of the best things about the Playstation 2 was that you could play DVDs on it. Around the time I got one, I managed to procure a small TV somehow. Then, one night, I made the move – up to my room they went. That heady combination led to many late nights gaming, and watching movies.

When I started working a Saturday job, I bought pre-owned games and DVDs by the dozen. The summer holidays of Year 9 were like a crazy, self-funded term at a film school. My curriculum was as varied as you’d imagine a teenage boy’s to be: Bond, Rambo, Conan the Barbarian, Predator, Under Siege. Then, at Christmas, I got the complete Rocky box set. I can’t remember if I managed to watch them all in one sitting or not, but it was pretty damn close.

Yes, they’re cliched and hammy. But they’re glorious. The training montages are the crystallised core of the films, representing all that makes them an iconic part of the zeitgeist. Rocky IV sees a bearded Stallone in the best shape of his life, sprinting up mountains, lifting rocks and helping Russian peasants. Why’s he putting himself through this agony? To avenge the death of his best friend at the hands of Ivan Drago. His trainer screams “No pain!” while synth music blasts in the background. To this day, the scene below gets me pumped up:

 

At the time, I was simultaneously extremely skinny and ridiculously out of shape. I’d never been in shape! I didn’t play any sports, or even think about why anyone would want to. My diet consisted of anything and everything – bags of donuts from the tuck shop were a staple. I just wasn’t connected to my body in any way. I had absolutely no drive or discipline: physically, or in any other area of my life. I was simply floating along, letting things happen to me.

For some reason, seeing Rocky control his body in that way, deliberately putting himself through hell to become stronger, faster and better in pursuit of a worthy goal, changed the way I looked at the world forever.

“What’s he doing?”

“He’s winning.”

Ringside at the final fight.

I started doing pushups, situps and pullups in my bedroom. I progressed onto making contraptions out of cinder blocks, sticks and rocks. I’d load up Sainsbury’s ‘Bags for Life’, and haul them around in a crazy circus act of a workout. Eventually I started running too, with absolutely no finesse, strategy or understanding. I literally just ran around the block in plimsolls. At first, I could barely get to the nearest lamppost and back before I was out of puff. But, it filled me with a kind of joy different to anything I’d ever experienced. At 17, I joined a small, local gym and started lifting weights properly. From there, I’ve not looked back.

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I’ve become more and more addicted to exercise over the intervening years. It’s slowly formed a central pillar in my life. It grounds me. I know that wherever I go, whatever I do in my life, physical exertion will be a part of it somehow.

Exercise showed me how the actions I took had direct impact on outcomes. If I chose to do pushups and pullups, I could literally see a physical development in my chest and back muscles in a matter of weeks. I’d never thought of things in that way before. The realisation was incredibly empowering.

It didn’t take long to start applying that understanding into other areas of my life: the more I read, the more knowledgeable I became. The greater my effort into thinking clearly and having challenging conversations, the better my ability to communicate.

Rocky IV was the way I discovered self-discipline. And that’s at the root of everything I do today.

So… what’s the point? Why did I tell you that story?

Well, I’m not saying Rocky IV is going to be as transformative for you as it was for me. But you don’t know what film, song or book could be. It might be anything, and it may arrive in your life at just the right moment to make a difference. So deliberately expose yourself to new things. Go in with an open mind to every book you read, every TV programme you watch, every conversation you have – and maybe even every blog post you read.

In being curious, thoughtful and ready to act on your convictions, your mind will become a fertile ground for new ideas.

And, if that moment of realisation hits, you’ll be ready.

 

Violent and original

Art, Creativity, Fitness, Motivation, Philosophy, productivity, writing

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

Gustave Flaubert.

What this means for you and I:

  • Have a routine (go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day)
  • Forge habits that, when aggregated, make your life better over time
  • Look after yourself – good nutrition, adequate rest, strenuous physical exercise, access to a broad range of mentally stimulating inputs (films, books, podcasts, conversations etc)
  • Don’t make stupid financial decisions that will put strain on the rest of your life

In sum: get out of your own way. Don’t let chaos impede your ability to do the work you’re capable of. You owe it to yourself.

Slippage

Fitness, Motivation, Philosophy, Uncategorized

Last night I stayed up far too late watching an awful movie I’d seen before. I didn’t want to do that. But I was tired, and lazy, and travelling had taken it out of me. It seemed easier than brushing my teeth and walking up the stairs to get into bed at that point.

I eventually turned in at half past midnight. I had a gym session planned mere hours later… 5 and a half hours is definitely not a healthy amount of sleep, whatever bravado you want to throw at me. Given that, there were so many ways I could have rationalised the decision to shift my plans about, move the workout to later in the day… But later far too often becomes never.

So, I gritted my teeth, got my head down, set my alarm (and several backups)… and got up on time. On the 4th alarm. I stumbled downstairs, made a cup of strong coffee and cycled to the gym, as planned.

I always train legs first thing on a Monday morning. Why? Heavy squats will beat you down, punish you and put everything else into perspective. It’s easy to focus on completing a piece of coursework, crunching numbers, writing emails or whatever else it is you have to do when you’ve already willingly put yourself under a heavy, crushing weight and willed yourself up, over and over again. It’s building that resistance to procrastination, getting the week started with a bang.

Stephen King writes about a concept called ‘slippage’ in his collaboration with Peter Straub, ‘Dark House’. It’s a feeling of a kind of inevitable, sometimes hard to detect degradation into darkness. Everything is in a state of entropy. So, you’re either working to improve or letting things degrade and break up.

Forcing yourself to do the hard, worthwhile things you know you should, even if you’ve not put yourself in the best decision to do them, is the best way to combat this ‘slippage’. That holds true both in your own life and the way your actions impact the world around you.

Don’t let yourself slip.


Notes

I almost slipped writing this article. It’s late now, but I’m getting it done. Too many ideas vanish into the ether and this is an important one.

So I got it done.

The nugget of this idea came while cycling back from the aforementioned leg workout, so quickly jotted it down on one of these pads. After a long day of econometrics lectures and work on my dissertation, I wrote it in one sitting (with the help of a cup of coffee – pictured).